TAMPA — A bill pending in Congress will narrow the official navigation in the Hillsborough River south of Kennedy Boulevard by half in the area where the Tampa Riverwalk is now under construction.
Tampa Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor inserted the single paragraph shrinking the channel into the 2013 Water Resources Reform Development Act, which provides a to-do list of water projects for the Army Corps of Engineers.
The measure narrows the federal channel from Kennedy Boulevard south to the mouth of the river from 200 feet — its width since 1899 — to 100 feet, bringing it in line with the channel north of the Kennedy Boulevard bridge.
Crews are now driving pilings into the river bottom to support the next phase of the Riverwalk, which will skirt the surface of the river along the eastern bank between Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and MacDill Park.
The $10 million leg of the Riverwalk runs just outside the 200-foot navigation channel and won’t be affected if the water projects bill fails to pass the Senate, said Ali Glisson, spokeswoman for Mayor Bob Buckhorn.
Narrowing the channel will make room for economic development south of Kennedy, Glisson said.
“For instance, if a property owner south of Kennedy wanted to add docks to their property, today, those docks might interfere with the channel. Once the bill is passed, they wouldn’t,” she said.